Four-track cassette workflow with sampling, granular processing, live looping and effects from Torso Electronics? Oh yes please.
Torso Electronics S-4
It’s not very often that I read through a press release and get really excited. With so many new devices announced almost daily, a kind of instrument ennui can set in. And yet perusing the announcement for Torso Electronics’ upcoming S-4, I couldn’t help but be piqued.
Dubbed a sculpting sampler, Torso Electronics’ new device—the company’s first instrument after the release of its unique sequencer, the T-1—promises lots of exciting features arranged in a way that feels really inspiring.
Torso Electronics S-4: Portastudio Style
As an ambient musician with a bunch of cassette four tracks sitting around my studio, I love the idea of a digital device with a gridless and multitrack workflow. The black matte aluminium and desktop-format S-4 seems to fit this bill perfectly.
The S-4 offers four parallel tracks of stereo audio at 24-bit/48kHz, each containing a chain of five audio devices. The first audio device is called Material, and this is for sampling/recording/looping and even supports live audio. Next is Granular with time-warping and pitch-shifting algorithms. Following on we have Filter, which is a 48-band tuned filter bank morphing resonator (be still my beating heart). It’s capable of everything from classic filtering to wild, animated tonal control. Lastly, there are two effects engines. Color handles distortion, bit crushing and compression while Space gives you reverb and delay with pitch-shifting and shimmer.
Torso Electronics S-4: Modulation
S-4 is more than just a glorified tape recorder though. It also has modulation, making it something of a synthesizer as well. Each audio device includes four configurable modulators giving you 20 total. You can map these to any parameter—with unlimited mapping destinations. Modulation sources include complex LFOs, envelopes and generative sequencers.
Torso Electronics S-4: Sampling and Recording
Hook up a MIDI keyboard and you can play the S-4 like a synthesizer/sampler. Sampling and audio recording are handled in a number of ways. You can use the built-in microphone and stereo input jacks to sample, record and loop as well as process through the effects. The S-4 also offers resampling. You can load samples from the internal 4GB of flash memory or via an external drive (connected via the USB-C port, I assume).
That USB port also lets you interface with class-compliant devices and do file transfers to/from a computer. You can use the device as an audio interface, or expand inputs with an additional class-compliant USB interface. Like with the T-1 sequencer, there’s also WiFi for Ableton Link.
In terms of connectivity, around the back, along with the USB-C and audio-in stereo jacks are a headphone jack, two outs, MIDI in and out (mini jacks, unfortunately) and analogue sync in and out. Up top, there’s a 3.5-inch colour LCD screen to see what you’re doing plus 21 RGB buttons with tactile feedback and nine endless encoders.
Torso Electronics S-4: Anticipation
Normally I don’t like to editorialize too much when writing news stories. I’m kind of old-school that way. When I worked for IGN.com way back in the 1990s, we had classic journalism practices drilled into us. However, looking at the specs for the S-4 I can’t help but get excited. And the best part? At $899 it’s not even that expensive.
Torso Electronics’ S-4 is now available for pre-orders at the company’s site. They estimate shipping to start in March of 2024.
Not piqued your interest but still want a compact sampler? Try one of these instead.
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- Torso Electronics S-4: Torso Electronics S-4
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